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Katy Willings’ Mongol Derby blog: man alive!

Former international pony dressage rider Katy Willings’ latest update on her progress training for the Mongol Derby

I am back in the land of the living, back on the horse, back in the gym, and already wondering if all that sleep was just a dream (does that make any sense?) as I am back to being on my knees.

Some awesome juggling by yours truly this week. An almost faultless run of having the appropriate kit for gym sessions, yoga, running home, cycling in, dashing home to ride, and being at the allotted place at more or less the allotted time. (Apart from one example of finding iPod in the fridge — it still works!) If you have a small country you would like me to run, do get in touch, I could probably handle it.

Did manage to not have any socks on Tuesday, which meant I couldn’t run as far as I had planned to, but got home to Stockwell with no blisters and lived to fight (Bruno) the following day. We have another session planned tonight actually. How tragic that my Friday nights now consist of such barbaric activities. Part of me longs for a more innocent time of leaving the office, getting hammered, wobbling home on the night bus talking to strangers and having a lie-in on Saturday morning.

Some consternation in the shire on Wednesday night/Thursday morning at my less-than-brilliant performance on Tucker, who I am competing in two mediums at Oldencraig this weekend — eek. I am not sure what I am doing wrong exactly, but I struggle with the straightness in the right canter, and Mum’s brand of tough love — “well, it’s definitely YOU, he’s perfectly straight with me!” — wasn’t particularly helpful. Maybe it’s because I am always knackered when I ride, or I hadn’t ridden for a fortnight what with the illness and all, or just because Tucker knows I am the reserve jockey and ever so slightly takes the piss.

I think in truth it’s because I ride using my brain, not being endowed with any natural ‘talent’ to speak of, and when I haven’t had the chance to go away and cogitate on a training problem (for reasons of getting up at 5.30am, for example), I don’t have any instincts to fall back on to sort things out in real time. I have thought about it at regular intervals since and think I have devised the ultimate renvers-based straightening exercise. Plus I am going to get an early night in before Sunday (somehow), so fingers crossed we won’t let the side down. Failing that, the boots will be uber-shiny. Reports from the mother-ship that he went “brilliantly” today, so maybe I made my point after all.

Anyway, after 45 minutes in the saddle yesterday morning I was still not happy but had to do a flying dismount and launch operation Back to Work as usual. Unfortunately my bid for the 7.29 got thwarted by some traffic signals and an absolute cretin at the ticket office — classic quote of the day as my blood started to bubble was “ooh, whoopsie, I’ve gone and pressed the button!”

Unfortunately it was not a button that would deliver me to the platform in minus two minutes, or decapitate the man who had made me dig out my young person’s railcard and then order me a grown-up’s ticket anyway, so I was a bit late into work. Eek. Actually a colleague asked me if work was getting in the way of my Derby preparations yesterday. I don’t believe there is a safe response to that question so I think I just blushed until my ears stung.

I had Thursday night off training, having booked tickets to see Carlos Acosta, fittest ballet dancer in the world, ever. It was sublime, majestic, eye-wateringly gymnastic. I was so moved I wore my leotard into work today (it’s under my shirt, no-one need know!).

Other reconnaissance this week — I have sourced a discounted GPS from the wonderful Gary at Winkelbury Cycles. And applied for my Mongolian visa. And taken delivery of my solar charger thingy. And practised erecting my tent. And sat in it in the torential rain just to be sure. And packed it away again (once aired). And had another rabies shot, despite a city-wide shortage of rabies vaccines, and non-swine-flu-infected nurses to inject them. And sourced some actual army issue ration packs (let’s hope they don’t share their helicopters so lightly, no wonder they’re short). And had a fight with UK customs over my saddle bags, which left the U.S. on 7 July, and arrived on our cack-handed and administratively-impaired shores on 15 July, where apparently they are just sat in a queue awaiting some sort of stamp.

Before I go, I wish to whet your appetite with something I am going to be working on over the weekend, where I have, I think, a record SEVEN horses to ride if I get my logisctics sorted. Two words… Video… Montage. Hehe.

Vigorously, Katy x

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